As anyone knows me, I love to refer to the Houston baseball team as the Asterisks due to their widespread program to steal signs from other teams so their batters would know which pitch is coming. As an Ohio State alum, of course I am incensed by the obvious sign stealing program run by That Team Up North, now more widely referred to as Those Cheaters Up North. In both the case of the Astros and the Wolverines, their fans, owners and administrators are insisting that the gains from sign stealing are limited, and they would have won anyway. That may be true, but we will never know.
Fortunately, in the sports world, cheating often only impacts bragging rights and, perhaps not as fortunate, those who might engage in recreational or perhaps more invested sports betting. In the end, no one really gets hurt.
Right now, we are seeing another case of cheating play itself out in the courts with much more importance and impact on every person. Former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters are facing charges of allegations that they worked in various ways to change or block the vote counts in the 2020 election. It’s nearly impossible to actually enumerate all the charges in multiple states and federally that are pending and addressing these concerns.
And then there are the widespread efforts by both parties to gerrymander districts to confer the greatest voting advantages to the party in power in states where they can still pick their own voters. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court finally stepped in to block an Alabama voting map that denied an additional potentially Black majority voting district. And yet, Supreme Court precedent still supports partisan gerrymandering. What might be considered cheating to skew results in your favor has been affirmed by the courts as permissible.
Where we are left is a culture that seems to have accepted cheating to advance one’s own self-interest, so long as you don’t get caught. Although Michigan has since accepted its rather lenient punishment of a three-game only suspension of the head coach from the Big 10 conference, they initially sought to postpone punishment through the courts, claiming they deserved due process despite extensive damning evidence in the public. Football conferences are not official courts where due process is guaranteed, especially when the evidence is so damning.
This fortunately for the Trump family is the guarantee they have in their various cases. Whether it is the financial fraud cases in the New York case or the election tampering case in federal courts, they remain innocent until proven guilty by the court.
What we need to remember though is that the right to a fair trial is different from the right to coach a football team or run for president. Michigan realized they had to accept the consequences of what their team has seemingly been caught red-handed.
It’s time the Republican party recognizes that its leading candidate for president similarly is a threat to democracy and unfit to run for president. Michigan is not a victim, and neither is President Trump, despite public relations efforts to make it seem so.
Just as I am waiting to see if Michigan is forced to vacate its past two wins against OSU as punishment for cheating, we will wait to see what happens with the Trump family and the cases against him. But just as Michigan’s coach has been removed from coaching the final regular-season games, Trump can be told that he does not deserve to run for president.
In one case, it’s just a game of football, in the other, the lives of every American can be impacted. We as a nation need to make it clear that cheating should not be rewarded and should have consequences.
David Inoue is executive director of the JACL and is based in its Washington, D.C., office.